By Julia Willis
Only a few blocks from Surburban Station, Duel: A Rock and Roll Piano Bar, provides both delicious food and a fun atmosphere well worth the $6 to get there by train.
Although I had my initial doubts about whether a piano bar would serve good food and provide quality entertainment, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found at Duel. The dark lighting and modern décor provide an intimate atmosphere which easily pulls your attention to the elegant backlit bar.
All of the small tables surround a platform stage which holds two baby grand pianos for performers to play for your evening entertainment.
Until the music starts at 8 p.m., however, the big screen TV which hangs over the bar provides enough entertainment to keep everyone occupied.
Although the restaurant is lightly staffed, the employees are very polite and the food is always brought to the table piping hot.
The menu provides some hometown favorites as well as a few ingenious creations the restaurant invites their patrons to try.
Although Duel offers a limited menu of only fried appetizers and burgers, everything is priced between $4-$12 with the average college student in mind.
Every appetizer arrives in a basket to make their dishes easy to share and almost all of the food comes with delicious dipping sauces. Although the cheesesteak eggrolls were one of the more unique options, the onion rings were delectable with the spicy ranch sauce which accompanied them.
Reminiscent of the Corner Grille, this sauce was both tangy and provided a twist to one of the most popular dishes served across the country.
The fried pickles were also better than expected. Although some restaurants encase the pickle in too much breading, Duel gave their pickles the spotlight with just enough breading to keep the spears juicy and crisp. The breaded mushrooms amazed me in a similar way. Although I usually do not like mushrooms, these succulent bite-sized treats melted as soon as they entered your mouth. Duel takes some interesting risks with their menu which have paid off.
By the time the burgers arrived, the pianists were taking the stage and the show began. Although the patty itself was typical of any American restaurant, the toppings made this burger stand out. The Duel burger came to the table piled high with lots of crispy bacon strips coated with melted cheese and large crunchy onion rings which mingled quite nicely with the barbeque sauce that coats both buns.
In between bites of this feast, we listened as the piano players explained that Duel has a unique all-audience participation and request atmosphere. If someone writes down a suggestion for a song choice and brings it up to the pianist of his choice with at least a $1 tip, they will play that song for the entire restaurant to enjoy.
What started out as a quiet and quaint restaurant soon turned into an all-out sing-along. The pianists would both play as one of them belted out the lyrics to a well-known song, and would stop playing all together at crucial moments, allowing the audience to get louder and take the mic for a moment before continuing.
Be warned, however, that most of the music featured was either from the ’70s or ’80s because the majority of the customers they were catering to had already graduated college and were older than we were.Regardless of age, everyone in the restaurant seemed to enjoy themselves as much as we did.
We clapped, we sang, we laughed and we left the restaurants with full stomachs and sore throats, proof of how much we truly enjoyed the special atmosphere that Duel can offer to their clientele.